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The Truth About Eclipses

Saleh Mohammed Alladin
Retired Professor of Astronomy
Osmania University–Hyderabad, India
Review of Religions, May-June, 1999

In an article entitled the Fraud of Eclipses Idare Dawato-Irshad of the USA has made several allegations of falsehood against the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at. The eclipses relate to a prophecy of the advent of the Messiah.

The prophecy regarding eclipses is given in the following Hadith (i.e. Sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad sa):

For our Mahdi (Spiritual Reformer) there are two Signs which have never occurred before since the creation of the heavens and the earth, namely, the moon will be eclipsed on the first night in Ramadhan (i.e., on the first of the nights on which a lunar eclipse can occur) and the Sun will be eclipsed on the middle day of Ramadhan (i.e., on the middle day on which a solar eclipse can occur) and these Signs have not happened since the creation of the heavens and the earth (Dare Qutani, Vol.1, p.188)

We have inserted the brackets in the text of the Hadith in order to elucidate the meaning. We shall discuss this point later. In the quotation from Roohani-Khazain, Vol.17, p.133, given by the author the meaning of the Hadith is given instead of a literal translation, and no brackets are used.

If the lunar month is reckoned from the first sighting of the lunar crescent, the dates on which a lunar eclipse can occur are the 13th, 14th and 15th, and the dates on which a solar eclipse can occur are the 27th, 28th and 29th. The prophecy thus requires that the lunar eclipse should occur on the 13th Ramadhan and the solar eclipse on the 28th Ramadhan.

Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as of Qadian, the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat received his first revelation regarding his appointment as a the Divine Reformer in 1882. In obedience to Divine command he declared that he is the Mujaddid (Reformer) of the 14th century of the Islamic era. In 1891 he claimed, on the basis of Divine revelation to be the Promised Messiah and Mahdi whose advent was foretold by the Holy Prophet Muhammad sa. He asserted that Almighty God had sent him to give spiritual life to the people. But the contemporary theologians rejected his claims and he met a storm of very violent opposition.

The prophesied eclipses then occured over Qadian on the specified dates of Ramadhan. The lunar eclipse occured after sunset on March 21st, 1894 (13th Ramadhan 1311 H) and the solar eclipse occurred on the morning of Friday April 6th, 1894 (28th Ramadhan). The Promised Messiah as then wrote the book Noorul Haq, (Light of Truth) Part-II, in which he declared that these eclipses were Divine Signs in support of his claim. The Promised Messiah as also drew attention in this book to several properties of the eclipses which make the signs very impressive.

Allegations

The following allegations have been made in the article under review.
  1. The Hadith of Dare Qutani regarding the signs of the eclipses is not authentic.

Reply to the first allegation:

The authenticity of the Hadith is supported by the following facts:

  1. The root of the prophecy lies in the Holy Quran since the eclipses of the moon and the sun are mentioned as important signs of the approach of Resurrection in the Holy Quran and the time of the advent of the Promised Spiritual Reformer is also the Latter Age. The Holy Quran says:

    He asks: When will be the day of Resurrection? When the eye is dazzled, And the moon is eclipsed, And the sun and the moon are brought together, On that day man will say, whither to escape? (Ch. 75: vs.7-11)

    When the solar eclipse occurs, the sun and the moon are in conjunction, i.e. they are in the same direction as viewed from the earth. Hence the words and the sun and the moon are brought together signify solar eclipse. The Hadith of Dare Qutani supports this interpretation and gives valuable details about the prophesied eclipses.

  2. The Holy Quran says:

    He (Allah) is the Knower of the unseen, and He reveals not His secrets to anyone, except to whom He choses, namely a Messenger of His. (Ch.78: vs.27-28)

    The unique nature of the prophecy and its magnificent fulfillment also indicate that the source is the Holy Prophet sa. When the prophecy in the Hadith has been fulfilled the criticism against the narrators loses significance. The Promised Messiah as has discussed this point in his book Zameema Anjame Atham, Roohani Khazain, Vol.11, pp.333-334. We shall also revert to this in our reply to the sixth allegation. The Promised Messiah as has also replied to the objection raised against the narrators of the Hadith in Tohfae Golarviya, Roohani Khazain, Vol. 17, p.133.

  3. Hadhrat Ali Bin Umar Albaghdadi Ad Dare-Qutani, the compiler of the Hadith, was a very respected saint and was scrupulously careful in recording the saying of the Holy Prophet sa. Hadhrat Shah Abdul Aziz, Muhaddis of Delhi, another eminent elite of Islam, comments about Imam Dare-Qutani in his book Naubatul Fikr thus:

    Imam Dare-Qutani once said, ‘O residents of Baghdad. do not even think that any narrator would be able to refer any false or incorrect statement to the Holy Prophet of Islam sa during my life time.’ Naubatul Fikr, (Footnote p.52).

  4. The article under review has expressed doubts as to whether the narrator of the Hadith is really Hadhrat Imam Baqar. Muhammad Bin Ali is considered as Hadhrat Imam Baqar in Iqtirabus Saat by Nawab Siddique Hasan Khan Saheb (p.1061). A photocopy of the relevant page is given in The Advent of Imam Mahdi - A Great Heavenly Sign by Muhammad Azam Ekseer, Rabwah 1994, p.88. In this connection it may also be noted that Allama Shaikh Shahabuddin Ibn Al Hajar-al Hashimi wrote:

    Muhammad Bin Ali, an elite among the Ahle-Bait, narrates that there will be two signs for Imam Mahdi which have never been shown to mankind since the creation of the heavens and the earth. One of these is the eclipse of the moon on the first of its nights in the month of Ramadhan, and the eclipse of the sun on the middle of the days. (Kitabul Fataw Al Hadeesiyya, p.31, Egypt)

  5. The signs of eclipses are mentioned in the collections of Hadith of both Sunni and Shia sects. Eminent Muslim scholars have mentioned these signs in their books. Books of other religions also mention eclipses as signs of the Promised Divine Reformer. For details see Review of Religions, November 1989, The Advent of Imam Mahdi - A Great Heavenly Sign, (in Urdu); The Great Heavenly Sign of Eclipses of the Moon and the Sun, by Muneer Ahmed Khadim, Qadian 1994 (in Urdu); The Truth of Hadhrat Imam Mahdi as vindicated by the Signs of Solar and Lunar Eclipses by Saleh Mohammed Alladin, 1988, (in Urdu); Article entitled Fulfillment of Celestial Signs - Veracity of the Holy Prophet of Islam, by Anwar Mahmood Khan, Minaret, April-June 1994.

  1. The Hadith has been misinterpreted. The words first and middle stated in the Hadith do not signify 13th and 28th but signify 1st and 15th.

Reply to the second allegation:

In the article under review, the Hadith has been understood as meaning the lunar eclipse would occur on the first of Ramadhan and the solar eclipse would occur on the 15th of Ramadhan. As the author has himself admitted this event is astronomically impossible. Interpreting the Hadith in this way makes the Hadith meaningless. As the Promised Messiah as has mentioned, the purpose of the Hadith is not to promise some extraordinary prodigy but to provide a criterion for the recognition of the Imam Mahdi which is not shared by any other person (Zameema Nuzoolul Masih, Roohani Khazain, Vol.19, p.141).

The notion of a lunar eclipse occurring on the first of Ramadhan is also very unreasonable. The lunar crescent of the first night is often seen with difficulty. Detecting the eclipse on it would be a formidable problem. It may also be noted that the lunar crescent of the first of Ramadhan is called Hilal and not Qamar. In the Hadith the word Qamar is used and not Hilal.

According to the laws of nature, a lunar eclipse occurs at full moon (and this happens only on the 13th, 14th and 15th of the month) and a solar eclipse occurs at conjunction when the moon cannot be seen at all (and this happens only on the 27th, 28th and 29th of the month). The Hadith therefore implies that the lunar eclipse would occur on the first of the possible nights, i.e. on the 13th and the solar eclipse would occur on the middle of the possible days, i.e. on 28th.

These properties of the eclipses were known not only to the scientists but also to others who were not scientists. Thus Nawab Siddeeq Hasan of Bhopal wrote in his book Hijajul Kiramah that according to astronomers the lunar eclipse does not occur on any date other than 13th, 14th and 15th and the solar eclipse does not occur on any date other than 27th, 28th and 29th (Hijajul Kiramah p.344).

  1. The eclipses did not occur on 13th and 28th Ramadhan in 1894, but occurred on 14th and 29th of Ramadhan. Hence even our interpretation is not justified.

Reply to the third allegation:

The third allegation has been that the eclipses had occurred in 1894 on the 14th and 29th of Ramadhan and not on 13th and 28th. This is not correct. The date of Ramadhan depends upon when the lunar crescent was first sighted and this cannot be decided with certainty by the astronomical calculations alone in many cases since this depends also upon meteorological conditions. The calculations do indicate that there was a possibility of sighting the moon on the evening of 8th March 1894 if meteorological conditions were good but meteorological conditions were not favorable and the lunar crescent could only be observed in the evening of 9th March from Qadian (see Review of Religious, July 1987). The age of the moon at sunset on 8th March was 22.7 hours (Review of Religions, September 1994).

As Dr. Mohammad Ilyas has mentioned: On the basis of recorded accounts, sightings of the moon younger than 20 hours are rare and sightings of more than 24 hours are not uncommon although the visibility may at times require it to be more than 30 hours old. (Islamic Calendar, Times and Qibla, by Dr. Mohammad Ilyas, Berita Publishing SDN BHD, 22 Jalan Liku, Kuala Lumpur, 1984).

The lunar eclipse was seen from Qadian after sunset on 21st March. Hence it was the 13th of Ramadhan when the lunar eclipse occurred. The solar eclipse occured in the morning of 6th April. Hence it was the 28th of Ramadhan when the solar eclipse occurred. The Promised Messiah as, has been repeatedly mentioning that the eclipses have occurred on the dates required by the prophecy, see for example, Noorul Haq Part II, Roohani Khazain, Vol.8 p. .209; Zameema Anjame Atham Roohani Khazain, Vol.1, p.334.. Even our opponent Muhammad Abdullah Memar has written that the eclipses were seen on the 13th and 28th of Ramadhan.

  1. The lunar and solar eclipses have occurred on 13th and 28th of Ramadhan thousands of times whereas the Hadith states that these events have not occured before.

Reply to the fourth allegation:

The fourth allegation is that lunar and solar eclipses have occurred on the 13th and 28th of Ramadhan thousands of times whereas the Hadith states that these events have not occurred before.

In reply to this allegation we state that the Hadith does not imply that eclipses did not occur on the 13th and 28th Ramadhan ever before but it implies that such eclipses never happened before as signs. The Promised Messiah as wrote:

We are not concerned with how often solar and lunar eclipses have occurred in the month of Ramadhan from the beginning of the world till today. Our aim is only to mention that from the time man has appeared in this world, solar and lunar eclipses have occurred as Signs only in my age for me. Prior to me, no one had this circumstance that on the one hand he claimed to be Mahdi Mauood (Promised Reformer) and on the other, in the month of Ramadhan, on the appointed dates, lunar and solar eclipses occurred and he declared the eclipses as signs in his favor. The Hadees of Darqutani does not say at all that solar and lunar eclipses did not occur ever before, but it does clearly say that such eclipses never occurred earlier as Signs, because the word ‘Takoona’ is used which denotes feminine gender; this implies that such a Sign was never manifested before. If it was meant that such eclipses never occurred before, ‘Yakoona’ which denotes masculine gender was needed and not ‘Takoona’ which denotes feminine gender. It is clear from this that the reference is to the two signs because signs are feminine gender. Hence if anybody thinks that lunar and solar eclipses have occurred many times before, it is his responsibility to show the claimant to Mahdi who declared the solar and lunar eclipses as his signs and this proof should be certain and conclusive and this can only happen if a book of the claimant is produced who claimed to be Mahdi Mauood and had written that the lunar and solar eclipses which occurred in Ramadhan on the dates specified in Darqutani are the Signs of his truth. In short, we are not concerned with the mere occurrence of solar and lunar eclipses even if they had occured thousands of times. As a sign this has happened at the time of a claimant only once and the Hadees has proved its authenticity and truth through its fulfillment at the time of the claimant to Mahdi. (Chashma-e-Marifat, Roohani Khazain, Vol.23, pp. 329 - 330)

We may also note here that although lunar and solar eclipses have occurred on the specified dates many times, the occurrence of these dates from a specified place is quite rare. A lunar eclipse can be seen from more than half the earth’s sphere, but a solar eclipse is visible from a much smaller area. It often happens that a solar eclipse is only seen from a sparsely populated area or from an ocean. The solar eclipse of 6th April, 1894 was visible from a vast area of Asia including India.

The calculations made by Professor G.M. Ballabh and myself at the Department of Astronomy, Osmania University, Hyderabad, indicate that from the time of the Holy Prophet sa up to the present, pairs of eclipses have occurred in the month of Ramadhan 109 times. Of these only three times were both eclipses visible from Qadian on the specified dates, i.e. on the 13th and 28th of Ramadhan. Hence getting, the eclipses on specified dates at a specified place is quite rare (for details see Review of Religions, London, June 1992 and September 1994).

The Promised Messiah as stated that people should ponder over the fact that the sign was manifested in his country for the wisdom of God does not separate the sign from the person for whom the sign is meant. After the eclipses were observed from Qadian in 1894, he wrote as follows:

O servants of God, ponder and think. Do you consider it permissible that the Mahdi should be born in the countries of Arabia and Syria and his Sign should be manifested in our country; and you know that the wisdom of God does not separate the sign from the person for whom the sign is meant. Then how could it be possible that the Mahdi should be in the East but his sign should be in the West. And this should be sufficient for you if you are really seekers after truth. (Noorul Haq, Part-II).

  1. The eclipses have also occurred on 13th and 28th of Ramadhan at the time of other claimants to Mahdi.

Reply to the fifth allegation:

The fifth allegation has been that the eclipses have occurred on the 13th and the 28th Ramadhan at the time of other claimants also. The important point in this regard, as already mentioned, is that the claimant should also declare that these are Divine Signs for him.

In the article under review it is stated:

There is no mention whether this sign will occur before the birth, during the life, upon the claim, after the claim, or upon the death of the individual making the claim. Qadiani (Ahmadi) interpretation is simply without any merit.

The Promised Messiah as has given valuable guidance in this matter. He says:

The Hadith does not imply that before the advent of the Mahdi there would be eclipses of the moon and the sun in the month of the Ramadhan, because in that case it was possible that after seeing the lunar eclipse and the solar eclipse in the month of Ramadhan, any impostor could claim to be the Promised Mahdi and the matter would become ambiguous since it is easy to claim afterwards. If after the eclipses there are many claimants it is clear that the eclipses cannot testify anyone (Anwarul Islam, Roohani Khazain, Vol.9, p.48).

From ancient time, this has been the way of God that a Sign is manifested when the Messengers of God are treated as liars and are regarded as impostors (Tohfae Golarviya, Roohani Khazain, Vol.17, p.142).

Professor G.M. Ballabh and I investigated the dates of eclipses that occurred in Ramadhan at the time of 25 other claimants to Mahdi. The dates depend upon the place of observation. We calculated the dates with respect to the place of the claimant. We found that for none of the claimants can we definitely say that after their claim in their life time there occurred over their place a lunar eclipse on the 13th of Ramadhan and a solar eclipse on the 28th of Ramadhan in the same month. For details see Al-Fazal International, London, dated 12th June 1998. Furthermore we do not have any evidence of any claimant who put forward the testimony of eclipses in support of his claim.

In the article under review, the author has mentioned the names of Saleh Bin Tarif, Mirza Ali Muhammad Bab, Hussain Ali Bahaullah, Mahdi Sudani, and Dr. Alexander Dowie. The author states that eclipses could have been claimed by them but gives no evidence of their claims from any of their writings.

With regard to the above persons we make the following comments on the basis of our calculations:

  1. Saleh Bin Tarif claimed to be Mahdi in 125 AH and ruled until 174 AH. During the period 125 AH to 174 AH, pairs of eclipses occurred in Ramadhan in 126 AH (744 CE) 127 AH (745 CE), 170 AH (787 CE) 171 AH (788 CE). We studied the occurrence of pairs of eclipses in Ramadhan with respect to Morocco, the place of the claimant. We found that in none of these years was the solar eclipse visible from Morocco. The lunar eclipses were visible in 745, 766, 787, and 788 CE.
  2. Mirza Ali Muhammad Bab claimed to be Mahdi in 1264 AH (1848 CE) and was killed on 28 Shaban 1266 AH (9th July 1850CE). During the period 1848 to 1850 CE there was neither a lunar eclipse nor a solar eclipse in any part of the world.
  3. Hussain Ali Bahaullah did not claim to be Mahdi. He claimed to be a manifestation of God in 1867. He died in May 1892 (Encyclopedia Britannica). During the period 1867-1892, we do not have any year in which both lunar and solar eclipses occurred in Ramadhan and were visible in Iran. In 1289 AH (1872 CE ) both eclipses occurred in Ramadhan but none of them was visible from Iran. In 1290 AH (1873 CE), both eclipses occurred in Ramadhan but the solar eclipse was not visible from Iran and the lunar eclipse was visible from Iran on 14th Ramadhan.
  4. Muhammad Ahmad of Sudan claimed to be the Mahdi in 1298 AH (1881 CE) and he died on 9th Ramadhan 1302 AH (22nd June 1885). During the period, 1881-1885 neither a lunar eclipse nor a solar eclipse occurred in Ramadhan in any part of the world.
  5. Dr. Alexander Dowie did not claim to be Mahdi. He was an enemy of Islam. In 1903 CE he claimed to be the harbinger of the Messiah. He died in 1907. During the period 1903-1907, there was no eclipse of the sun or the moon in Ramadhan in any part of the world.

Five important aspects of the Prophecy of Eclipses

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat celebrated in 1994 the centenary of the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Holy Prophet sa regarding the signs of lunar and solar eclipses. In the U.K. on 31 July, 1994, Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the revered Head of the community gave an illuminating and lucid lecture on the grand prophecy of the signs of lunar and solar eclipses and its exact fulfillment. His lecture was telecast all over the world.

In his lecture he drew attention to the following five important aspects of the prophecy:

  1. The lunar eclipse should occur on the first of the nights on which a lunar eclipse can occur.
  2. The solar eclipse should occur on the middle of the days on which a solar eclipse can occur.
  3. These eclipses should occur in the month of Ramadhan.
  4. The claimant to Mahdi should be present before the eclipses, since it is possible that after the eclipses many can claim and it would not be possible to recognise the right person.
  5. The claimant should be aware of the signs and should declare that I am the Imam Mahdi for whom the heavenly signs have been shown.

Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad stated that even after a thorough search of the literature, we did not come across any claimant to Mahdi who had declared that lunar and solar eclipses are Divine Signs for him, except Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the true Imam Mahdi and Promised Messiah as.

Declarations by the Promised Messiah regarding the signs of lunar and solar eclipses. While on the one hand we do not find in the literature even a slight reference to the signs of the eclipses by any other claimant, on the other we find that Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as of Qadian declared repeatedly and emphatically that lunar and solar eclipses are Divine Signs for him. We give three examples from his writings:

In my age only, in the month of Ramadhan, eclipses of the sun and the moon occurred; in my age only, in accordance with the authentic sayings of the Holy Prophet saw and the Holy Quran and earlier Books, there was the plague all over the country, and in my age only, a new mode of transport, namely railways came into existence and in my age only, as per prophecies, terrible earthquakes came. Does not then righteousness demand that one should not be bold in denying me. Look! I swear by Almighty God and say that thousands of signs for establishing my truth have been manifested, are being manifested and will be manifested. If this were a man’s plan, never would he have enjoyed such support and help. (Haqiqatul Wahi, p.45,. Roohani Khazain), Vol. 22. p.48).

He further said:

And I also swear by Almighty God that I am the Promised Messiah and I am the same person who was promised by the prophets. There is news about me and my age in the Torah and the Gospel and the Holy Quran. It is stated that there will be eclipses in the sky and severe plague on the earth. (Dafiul Balaa, p.18, Roohani Khazain, Vol.18, p.238).

He also said:

I swear by God in Whose Hand is my life that He has manifested this Sign in the sky to testify my truthfulness, and He manifested it at a time when the Maulvis (theologians) named me Dajjal (Anti-Christ), the biggest liar, infidel and even the biggest infidel. This is the same Sign regarding which twenty years ago I was promised in Braheen-e-Ahmadiyya, namely, Tell them I have with me testimony from Allah, will you believe it or not? Tell them I have with me testimony from Allah, will you accept it or not? It should be remembered that although there are many proofs from Almighty God for vindicating my truthfulness and more than a hundred prophecies that have been fulfilled to which hundreds of thousands of people are witnesses, but in this revelation, this prophecy has been mentioned specifically, i.e. I have been given such a Sign which was not given to anybody else from the time of Adam to the present time. In short, I can stand in the sacred precincts of the Ka’aba and swear that this Sign is to testifying to my truth. (Tohfa-e-Golarviyya; Roohani Khazain, Vol.17, p.143)

  1. Hadhrat Ahmad as has written in his book Haqeeqatul Mahdi that all the Hadiths in which the coming of the Mahdi is foretold are not verifiable and cannot be relied upon.

Reply to the sixth allegation:

The author has not properly translated the passage from Haqeeqatul Mahdi, Rohani Khazain, Vol. 14. p. 429. The actual words of the Promised Messiah as are as follows:

......................

The English translation is as follows:

Regarding Mahdi and Promised Messiah, it is my belief and the belief of my Jamaat that all Hadiths of this kind in which the coming of the Mahdi is foretold are not verifiable and cannot be relied upon.

In the article under review, the words ‘of this kind’ are missing. The context shows that the Promised Messiah as has objected to statements in literature such as the following: The Mahdi will kill the Christians and those who remain will not be capable of ruling and they will flee in disgrace. On page 419 of the same volume of Roohani Khazain (Vol.14) in the book Aiyamus Suleh he has clearly stated that the Hadith of the signs of eclipses is authentic. He wrote as follows:

That Hadith is quite correct and is recorded not only in Dar Qutani but also in other books of Hadith of both Shia and Sunni sects. Furthermore, this principle has been accepted by the scholars of Hadith that if a prophecy of any Hadith has been fulfilled, then even if, for the sake of argument, that Hadith was earlier considered as false, the Hadith will be regarded as true after the prophecy has been fulfilled because God has borne witness to its truth since except God nobody has power over the unknown. The Holy Quran says: i.e. only the Messengers of Allah can narrate the unseen in a perfect way; others cannot be of this rank. Here Messengers include Rasool Nabi, Muhaddath and Mujaddid. (Aiyamus Suleh, Roohani Khazain Vol.14 p. 419).

Conclusion

The prophecy of the Holy Prophet sa regarding the Signs of lunar and solar eclipses for Hadhrat Imam Mahdi, the Promised Divine Reformer, has been clearly fulfilled in the person of Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as of Qadian, who was a devout follower of the Holy Prophet sa and was deeply filled with his love. He passed away in 1908 but his noble mission of propagating Islam and calling mankind to God Almighty is being continued with great zeal by his worthy successors. All praise to Allah.

May Almighty Allah enable mankind to consider with reverence and diligence the precious Hadith of our noble master, the Holy Prophet Muhammad sa and be guided by it to the right path. The remarkable prophecy and its magnificent fulfillment bears eloquent testimony to the truth and greatness of our most reverend master, the Holy Prophet Muhammad sa. All praise to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds.